Mariëlle Feenstra is policy advisor and expert in gender equality in the energy sector.
She has recently submitted her PhD thesis in “Gender Just Energy Policy: Engendering the energy transition in Europe”. She is a strategic thinker and currently, member of the advisory board of 75inQ.
Europe is often thought of as a leader, but…
While most of Europeans believe we are in good shape regarding gender balance, in my opinion there are lessons for us in the experience of countries like Pakistan and India. Looking at these countries, you see many women working in the energy sector and studying STEM. When analyzing energy policy through a gender lens, Rwanda provides a nice example for a strong gender-aware policy. They incorporated social inclusion in different layers of their public administration and installed the Gender Monitor Officer as a sort of gender ombudsperson monitoring and auditing gender mainstreaming at all levels and in all sectors.
In the Netherlands, we are still not there.
Traditionally, there are fewer female students in engineering disciplines than male students. A case study in Bulgaria shows that there have the highest share of female engineers in Europe resulting in more female professionals in the energy sector. However, having women working in the energy sector does not mean that they are at the decision-making level. More importantly, it does not automatically mean that there is more gender-mainstreaming in the policies.
Although I believe we as Dutch still have a lot of work to create a level playing field, there is a positive aspect to it. Netherlands can create her own path! Maybe we can find a way to employ the rich tradition of marketing and stakeholder participation to enhance energy transition activities and make them more inclusive.
In my opinion, we should not put all the duty on the shoulders of single women representatives. Women who have powerful positions often have too much on their plate that gender balance falls out of their priority list.
What we sometimes see is that women in high positions tend not to take a gender portfolio, so that they are not perceived as weak. More importantly, gender is about men and women. So striving for gender equality should not be the sole responsibility of women but a joint one with men.
As the energy transition is reshaping the energy system from supply-oriented to demand-driven, it is crucial to have a clear and fair view of all the users of the energy system to make right policies. Women are an important part of the users group and should not left behind when designing and implementing policies.
It was a happy surprise when I learned about 75inQ community. I had a good network outside of the Netherlands but knew no similar one in the Netherlands. What makes this network stand out is that women in this network are focused on energy transition but active in various disciplines and industries. The network might not be overall a good representative of the whole society but discipline-wise, it is! The composition of this network reflects nicely the different disciplines that we need to push energy transition forward.
I joined the community as a member of the advisory board. I am willing to spread the word and expand the network. I want to open up the network to new communities and increase the impact.